• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 08
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The Weight of Matter

To my dear niece Clementine,

       Inside this trunk are the remains of my worldly goods; I could not decide what to keep or discard, so I am sending you everything. Albert says I must hurry, the airport taxi is due; we are leaving for China today.

       Strangely, I cannot bear the weight of matter anymore. I always considered myself a nostalgic hoarder, but I now see these objects as artificial limbs, a prosthetic fleshy armour I have built around myself. For eight-eight years, I’ve kept souvenirs, been dropping pebbles, landmarks in time. Today I am retracing my path; like Hansel and Gretel in the darkness of the forest, I am trying to find my way home.

       Inside the trunk is my childhood elephant, Grey. I was given him the day they operated on my three year-old eyes. I was terrified. The operation went wrong – that is why I have that wonky eye - Grey was my only consolation. The doll I stole from my younger sister (your mother) one Christmas. She never forgave me and repeated the story of my theft around the table on numerous family occasions. Everyone laughed but I hated it. You see, your mother was younger than me and terribly pretty and I was desperately jealous I can tell you that now.

       As for the books, the books were my salvation I read, day and night, (even with my wonky eye) I was the ‘bookworm’, your mother the ‘beauty’ – rather a dull division of tasks. She also loved bicycles and I had a penchant for baking (but no one ever mentioned this!). The telephone was gift from my parents on my wedding day. I heard the news of your birth through that phone and of your marriage and of your mother’s death. I miss her terribly, even now. She died far too young.


The Weight of Matter

       The Gin is Albert and I’s favourite brand. I am sending you lemons and oranges too, for we always drunk them with Gin. There’s the candle, the roses and the bubbles from our wedding; all the guests blew bubbles that day, so light and ephemeral, a fitting metaphor for life.

       You know Clementine; the Romans believed in Penates, household gods that protected the hearth, they were “those through whom we breathe in our inner core”. Families travelled with their Penates statues in their bags, portable spirits of home I said to Albert this morning,

       “I picture all my things like a mobile nest that surrounds me.”

       He sternly replied it was time “to get rid of stuff.” So, dear niece, make of these things what you will. I have not mentioned the story of the peacock feathers (that involved a rather intrepid affair with a sculptor called Myron) and the clock belonged to your great-aunt Zelda who died on the boat on the way to Australia…

       Well, you will just have to imagine the rest. The pearls are for you and your baby daughter Sophia.

       Must dash Albert is calling. Kisses, Aunt Dorothea.